Mental health and business success

by Tiffany Paczek
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Running a business or facility is important, but it’s also hard work. Leaders and managers need to take care of their mental health in order to create a healthy working environment for their employees and to achieve true success.

Bosses affect entire workforces, potentially increasing or lowering productivity, mental and physical health, absenteeism and staff turnover. Worryingly, recent research shows that 60 percent^ of workers are so frustrated by their boss that they would choose to replace them over getting a pay rise. So a good boss or leader needs to think about how to develop a healthy, sustainable and productive culture for their employees and themselves.

“Business leaders need to think about how they can be the best boss possible, not only for their own well-being, but for that of their employees and the company. If, as a boss, you don’t think you have time, remember you owe it to yourself and your business to prioritise your mental health,” says Marcela Slepica, clinical services director at AccessEAP, a leading not for profit Employee Assistant Program.

Here Slepica offers her advice to leaders and managers on good mental well-being practices:

Remember you’re allowed to be human

Bosses will take the weight of their businesses on their shoulders with seemingly limitless mental resilience. This archetype of the unflappable boss is akin to the toxic masculinity that so often prevents men for reaching out for help.

Mental ill-health does not discriminate, affecting one in five Australians including CEOs, company founders and other business leaders. Be honest with yourself and respect the fact that you are human and are susceptible to feeling stressed and overwhelmed by the immense workload and responsibility of running an organisation.

Learn about mental health, your own and others, and understand how you can develop positive mental health and wellbeing in the workplace. The culture of any organisation starts at the top, with your behaviour filtering down to employees.

Talk about your feelings – break the stigma

Where does it say that showing emotions or being vulnerable is a sign of weakness? This is a long outdated cultural belief that, as a society, we have moved away from. In fact bosses need to talk about emotions in the workplace as part of leading from the top, to help break down the stigma.

By promoting a culture of open discussion, bosses can better connect with their staff and in doing so support their own mental well-being through positive social interactions.

Use support and peer networks

Business leaders often have impressive professional networks, including mentors in their own or similar fields, who they rely on for business advice in confidential and trusted forums. Lean on these people’s experience of coping in your role. While industries change and evolve, some of the big issues bosses face such as dealing with employees, reporting to board members and yearly planning, have been faced by generations of business leaders who you can learn from.

Outsource your mental health

Running a business is a 24/7 role. While employees may clock off and go home to enjoy their evening, bosses are often putting in long hours at the expense of time spent making social connections, or working on their health.

Putting in periodic meetings with a workplace psychologist will help make time for mental well-being where you will be able to get advice on coping mechanisms and issues you are facing both in work and at home. Through this type of support you can prioritise aspects of your life and deal with them in a structured way.

This should be part of your general self-care routine, like exercising and healthy eating. It doesn’t have to take a lot of time either and most EAPs will provide telephone or video conference sessions which can fit in alongside your other meetings.

Go to work, don’t be your work

We often define ourselves by our work and this is especially true of entrepreneurs and other business leaders. However the old adage ‘work to live, don’t live to work’ holds true even for bosses.

As people we need social connections, exercise and down time to function properly. When you leave work, step out of your role and explore other aspects of yourself through family time, pursuing hobbies and generally finding ways to switch off.

For more information on mental health at a leadership level, visit: www.accesseap.com.au.

^Harvard Business Review

Image: 123RF’s racorn © 123RF  

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